Las Vegas Sun

September 17, 2019

Currently: 74° — Complete forecast

Golden Knights’ Karlsson ‘playing the best hockey of his life’

Golden Knights Defeat Los Angeles Kings

John Locher/AP

Vegas Golden Knights center William Karlsson, center, celebrates after scoring against against the Los Angeles Kings during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Las Vegas.

Golden Knights forward William Karlsson has been so hot over the past month, it’s a wonder how they keep the ice frozen beneath him at T-Mobile Arena.

“You just have to laugh at it because I’ve literally never seen someone as hot as he is right now,” fellow Vegas forward Erik Haula said. “I just hope he continues it because it’s fun to watch.”

The 24-year-old Swede admits he’s playing the best hockey of his life, and the numbers back it up. Karlsson scored two goals in the Golden Knights' 5-4 overtime win over San Jose Friday night, bringing his season total to 12.

It’s three more than his previous career high — and it took him a quarter of the season to do it.

“I’ve been scoring so many goals lately, so for sure I’m playing the best hockey of my life right now,” Karlsson said. “I play with two great linemates who help a lot, so I think it’s a combination of everything.”

Karlsson played 162 games over the last two seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but scored only 15 goals combined (0.09 goals per game). Through 21 games in Vegas, he’s scoring 0.57 goals per game.

“I don’t know what he’s doing different but he’s playing a good, solid game at both ends of the ice,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “That usually happens — if you play hard on one end you get rewarded on the other.”

It has a lot to do with opportunity. After playing only 13:23 per game last year with Columbus, Karlsson’s time on the ice with the Golden Knights has jumped to 17:52 this season.

“That’s pretty much the story of all of us,” said Karlsson’s linemate Jonathan Marchessault, who scored the overtime winner on Friday. “We are all guys that didn’t have the chance to play on the top two lines and some didn’t play at all like (Brendan) Leipsic who is playing big minutes for us. It’s just fun that we can give everyone an opportunity, and I think everyone is making the most of it.”

Karlsson has had his share of spectacular goals: His first of the season was a beautiful one-timer to beat the Blues in overtime. But many come because he’s willing to battle in front of the net.

“I mean, everything he touches goes in,” Marchessault said, laughing. “I think it’s great to play with a guy like that. He’s a hardworking guy and he’s the identity of our group. He’s not flashy but just makes the plays.”

Karlsson’s first goal on Friday came on a rebound following a shot by Alex Tuch. He pushed the puck to the right of the goaltender to put Vegas up 3-1 at the time.

The second came when he redirected a shot from Marchessault past San Jose’s netminder to make it 4-1.

“I just positioned myself there in front of the net and it was a perfect shot from Marchessault, so I just had to tip it in,” Karlsson said. “I’ve had some puck luck for sure. It seems like the puck is always there for me.”

It’s hard to equate it to luck when Karlsson is shooting with pin-point accuracy. His shooting percentage with the Blue Jackets was 7.7 — just below the league average of 8.9.

This season it has spiked to an otherworldly 24.5 percent, which is good enough for sixth in the NHL. Of the five above Karlsson in shooting percentage, only one (Mark Stone) has more goals.

It’s highly unlikely Karlsson can keep this pace up for 82 games (he’s on pace for 50 goals, which would have led the NHL last season), but the Golden Knights are enjoying it while they can.

“When you’re hot, you’re hot, and he’s got a hot stick right now, so we want him shooting as much as he can right now,” Gallant said.